The kids are all right. That’s the message from educators at The Roeper School as they navigate the new realities of teaching in the COVID-19 era.
The Roeper School, which has provided independent learning for gifted children since 1941, is offering families two options this school year: in-person learning with strict safety protocols and the Roeper Home Learning Program 2.0, in which home-based students participate in real time via Zoom and Microsoft Teams technology. Families can choose each month which program they prefer.
At the Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, about 85% of students are participating in — and enjoying — in-person learning, says Leslie Hosey, director at the Lower School.
“The kids are doing great; they are so joyful and thrilled to be back in school,” she says. “The technology was a challenge in the beginning, but the students figure out a lot of things quicker than the adults do — they just roll with it and don’t get frustrated.”
The same holds true for the Middle and Upper Schools, where about two-thirds of students participate in in-person learning in Birmingham. “Kids are much more resilient than we give them credit for,” notes Upper School director Karen Johnson. “I am really encouraged with the way things are going.”
Here’s a look at how Roeper is handling this most challenging of school years.
The Lower School, which includes preschool through grade 5, consists of four learning stages that give gifted students opportunities for choice, decision making and problem solving. Classes are separated into learning pods called cohorts to keep physical contact as limited as possible.
Teachers wear masks and face shields, students wear masks, and everyone practices social distancing and are instructed outdoors — with full adult supervision — as much as the weather permits.
Specialists in subjects such as music, art and the sciences are housed in a separate building and deliver their lessons remotely in real time to both on-site students and those at home. Home-based students are encouraged to come in for lunch and recess while staying in their dedicated cohort and strictly following the safety protocols.
“The teachers have become really creative and innovative in delivering instruction that captures and engages the students,” reports Hosey. “Elementary schools are largely about relationships and we have been thoughtful and intentional about meeting academic, social, and emotional needs of all students during this time of uncertainty. Our school is all about preparing students for the unknown future on our collective horizon — which we are all living right now.”
Middle and Upper Schools
The Middle School, grades 6 through 8, and the Upper School, grades 9 through 12, are located in Birmingham. Classrooms have been reconfigured to limit capacity and allow for social distancing. Everyone who enters the building must wear a mask and a face shield. Teachers come into the classroom and technology allows those at home to participate in real time, “so they are getting the same experience as those in the school,” says Johnson.
And, she adds, “We are being very vigilant on how students are doing psychologically, which is just as important as their academics.” Every student belongs to a small advisory group, comprised of different ages and grades and both in-person and remote learners. These groups meet at least three times each week to ensure students are keeping up with the technology and organizational savvy needed in this new environment. Skills like mindfulness, which encourage students to focus on the present moment while accepting their feelings and thoughts, are stressed.
Educators have been careful to listen to student input as they establish safe protocols. For example, traffic cones in the hallways facilitate social distancing, but ropes that separated the pathway were taken down after students pointed out that they were not only unnecessary, but inconvenient.
“We have a lot of creativity with kids problem solving just like the adults do,” Johnson says.
“Roeper is a school for gifted students and with giftedness comes a real intensity. Students may feel more empathetic, more emotional, and may be hyper-driven intellectually,” Johnson adds. “Being able to keep people connected is one of the greatest learning needs I see this year in particular — the connection with teachers, with peers, with classes, and with their own inner self. Kids are learning how to organize themselves differently now, and we provide that scaffolding.”
Learn more about the many educational opportunities Roeper offers at roeper.org.